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Steel yourself: Must-reads for Superman fans

The best series, graphic novels and literature featuring the DC Comics hero to keep you company in your Fortress of Solitude

more lifestyle Updated: Dec 15, 2018 17:38 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
Krypton,Kal El,Jor El

The one that started it all : Action Comics #1 published by National Comics (which later merged with DC) in 1938 features Superman on the cover. Physical copies are rare and insanely expensive; digital versions are available online.

The poetic one: Superman for All Seasons (1998) retells the tale of Kal-El through a four-issue comic written by Jeph Loeb, with water-colour-like art by Tim Sale. Each issue is linked to a season and has a different narrator: Superman’s father, his true love, his first love and his archenemy. Critics love its pace and creative treatment.

The almost-fatal one: Writer Alan Moore and illustrator Curt Swan are at their best in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (1998). The two issues before a reboot and renumbering build up to the end of Superman. Clark Kent’s identity is revealed and he may be permanently stripped of his powers!

The actually fatal one: Death of Superman (1992) came in a black plastic case and included a black armband in case you went into mourning after writer Jerry Ordway was done killing off the superhero. The media went nuts over the final battle with the villain Doomsday. The comic was DC’s biggest seller. They resurrected him soon enough, though.

The fan favourite: Everybody loves All-Star Superman (2005). The 12-issue series by Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely is probably the smoothest reintroduction to Superman there is. The art is luscious, the writing intelligent. A monologue by Jor-El in the 2013 Man of Steel film is taken almost word-for-word from this series.

The one that makes you think: Comics enthusiasts see Kingdom Come (1996) as a Dark Knight Returns story for the Superman canon. He grapples with philosophical and emotional issues via Alex Ross’s art and Mark Waid’s writing.

The one across the Iron Curtain: Red Son (2003), a three-issue mini-series, reimagines the all-American story. What if Superman had been born in the USSR, asks writer Mark Millar. This superhero fights for socialism, and is dark red instead of red, white and blue.

The one for first-timers: Superman: Birthright (2003), written by Mark Waid with art by Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan, is a fresh, modern take on the tale, set in the present. The images are cinematic and the 12-issue story, while paying homage to all the characteristics of the classic, is very moving.

The one that’s like Spiderman: In Kurt Busiek’s Superman: Secret Identity (2004), a high-school Kansas boy, Clark Kent, is made fun of for his name. Then young Clark starts to show some distinctly super powers. What’s going on? A fun take on the superhero story, with art by Stuart Immonen.

The one about the villain: In 2005, five issues of Lex Luthor: Man of Steel gave readers a closer look at Superman’s longtime nemesis. Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo explore his motivations and his mortality, a rare look at the making of a villain.

The one that fired up academia: Not a comic. The academic essay The Myth of Superman (1972) by writer and theorist Umberto Eco opened the doors to scholarship about comic books. Eco presents Superman as a mythical and contemporary hero, someone who needs the weakening aspect of Kryptonite to feel more human. It also explores Superman’s continuing examination of the idea of what is right.

First Published: Dec 15, 2018 17:38 IST